Alexander Hamilton famously described the judiciary as the “least dangerous” branch of government. Most Founding Fathers viewed the Supreme Court as a great bulwark of liberty against encroachments of power. The Supreme Court, however, has not always fully protected liberty, and has at times been openly antagonistic to it.
This course surveys the broad history of the Supreme Court in the United States from its creation in 1789 to the infamous Dred Scott decision. It illustrates how the judiciary has functioned in our republic, and examines how it might have functioned better. By explaining the dominant trends in the Supreme Court, its characteristic mode of reasoning and interpretation, and the major results during each period, this course illuminates the importance of the Supreme Court in American life. Specific topics covered in this section of the multipart course include: the creation of the federal judicial system, the landmark Marbury decision, the Marshall Court’s protection of federalism and property rights, the shift to democratic ideas under the Taney Court, and the Dred Scott decision.
This lecture was recorded at the 2011 Objectivist Summer Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
(MP3 download; 3 hrs. 4 min., 132.12 MB)